Tom Dixon: Leading The Way With Modern British Design

Tom Dixon today is one of Britains most well-known designers and it’s safe to say he got there by accident. Looking at his life, career and designs here is everything you need to know about the very humble designer… 

Tom Dixon Designs


Who is Tom Dixon?

Born in Sfax, Tunisia Tom Dixon and his family relocated to Huddersfield in the North of England when he was young, describing it as quite the culture shock. Attending Holland Park comprehensive school which was known as quite a rough school, Tom Dixon often escaped to the art department, experimenting with clay and other materials. 

Tom Dixon Designs

@tomdixonstudio Photography: @philipsinden

In the early 80s,’ Dixon left school and played as a bass player in the Brit-funk band Funkapolitan. ‘everyone was in a band back then.’ A couple of years, gigs in a Notting Hill Gate Wimpy and an appearance on Top of the Pops later and the band folded, with Dixon moving into the nightclub business. It was during that time that the foundations of his furniture business were laid. He taught himself welding because he thought, 

 it might be good to do some live welding on stage. Then I started making things as ideas suggested themselves. There were people in the club like [the photographer] Mario Testino who wanted to buy things, and a hairdresser let me do a mirror for him. The furniture-making took off quite quickly.

Tom Dixon’s Career

Dixon went on to work for Italian brand Capellini, where Dixon’s iconic ‘S’ chair was created (it has since had a place in both the V&A and Museum of Modern Art) before going on to become the Creative Director of Habitat.

Tom Dixon Designs

Left to right: New York Greene Street Shop
The re-opened king cross store with iconic S chair. @themanzoni, restaurant and showroom in Milan.⁠

Dixon turned his mind to the heritage of design: “I was getting increasingly annoyed and frustrated with young, spotty, fresh-faced designers, so I thought I’d just go out and find the oldest people I could.” He conceived a project for Habitat called Living Legends, which he later changed to 20th Century Legends. Using the project, he admitted as an excuse to go and see all the masters, including Achille Castiglioni, Verner Panton, Anna Castelli and Pierre Paulin. 

Dixon spent almost 10 years at Habitat, learning the business of design, logistics and business functions. It was the learnings his schooling never provided. In 2002, Tom Dixon’s eponymous line was established and the landscape of British design was changed for good.

Tom Dixon Designs?

With an improvisational approach to design, Dixon’s pieces are almost artistic in appearance, with an added sense of spontaneity. His pieces are a unique mix of clean, minimal lines and expressive shapes and patterns; each one instantly recognisable as a ‘Tom Dixon’ and continuing to receive critical acclaim. 

One thing Tom Dixon has always been known for is his lighting, creating the ‘90s classic ‘Jack’ (a multifunctional object described as a ‘sitting, stacking, lighting thing’) and others such as the pendant lamps and beat lights. He remarked that lighting is one thing that people are brave enough to go extremely modern and contemporary with. 

Today, you’ll find his designs in notable spaces around the world as part of his interior design work with Design Research Studio, which he launched in 2007. The Tom Dixon touch can be found in London at the Mondrian Hotel and the Strand-based restaurant Bronte, or head over to Paris where his studio has also just renovated the established restaurant, Le Drugstore


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2022-04-14 08:52:30By Sarah Atkinson

Words by Holly Thompson

Featured Image Credit – @tomdixonstudio 

Sarah Atkinson

Sarah Atkinson

Writer and expert